Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24061/Araucaria – Seasonal games

Posted by ilancaron on April 26th, 2007


Solving time: 30’

Whew! I almost got blown away by this one. I’m going to say it again: I don’t see how this can be solved on the tube. I realize, having said that, someone will say that they managed to crack it from Piccadilly to Knightsbridge using a pen and the back of The Guardian. Standing up. Probably michod.

Having got the theme (winds and mah-jongg) it went rather fast – but I had to refresh my classical winds and mah-jongg (in)expertise via Wikipedia. I was helped somewhat by the fact that my sister has a gaggle of women over on the weekend to play mah-jongg and I’ve been shanghaied in to play on occasion.


5 AU,TUM,N – Turns out that there’s a set of seasonal tiles in mah-jongg (10A). The wordplay isn’t the easiest to crack (TUM for “inside”?) and I only got this clue once I had the other seasons.
6 W,INTER – second seasonal tile/clue: complete set is 5, 6, 24 and 25. I’m going to hazard a guess that using Westbury to indicate W,INTER means you aren’t a Ximenean.
10 MA(H)JO[r],N,GG – Meaningless surface but fairly prescriptive wordplay. Given that this was the puzzle’s theme a more precise definition would have helped: e.g. “tile game” instead of just “contest”. Heroin is both H and horse which is used cleverly (once directly and once as a red-herring).
11 WEST – this must be right since Zephyr (17D) is the WEST wind but I don’t understand the wordplay: ”Family acting as source of 17.” I suppose there must be a family of actors named WEST but other than Mae I can’t think of anyone.
12 CHAR,ACTERS=”actors” – Mah-jongg must have a “set” of CHARACTERS and see 11 for my assumption about the West family (of actors?).
21 LIED – same spellings, different pronunciations (homonym?) I think: first is what G. Washington didn’t do and the second is a German song.
23 EAR,THY – I like “former solver” yielding THY (archaic “you” which is what you are in this case).
24 SPRING – two meanings and a third implied by the seasonal theme.
25 SU(M)MER – again a third meaning implied by the theme.


1 STRAI(TE)N – rather whimsical to define (a musical) STRAIN as “recurring stuff”. TE Lawrence crops up again.
3 MITH=”myth”,RA,IC – RA is our (Egyptian) sun god (not artist) and MITHRAIC is an ancient Persian religion.
4 UT,MO,ST – very nice clue: UT is an archaic note, MO is modus operandi (“way crime’s committed”!) and the second “way” is ST.
5 A(U)STER – quite a clue: U for “turn” in ASTER (“flower”). AUSTER is the Roman (classical) name for the south wind (a set of tiles in mah-jongg) and, to cap it all, he’s a Guardian cryptic setter too!
7 RE,GARD – rev(drag=ref. transvestite, ER=queen).
8 I’M,PART,I,ALLY – def is “done straight”. Not sure how PARTI is indicated by “opening scenes” – presumably some sort of subtraction – unless it’s PARTI[es]? ”Setter’s opening scenes with friend done straight.” Smithers below notes that it’s simply PART I.
10 EAST WIND=”’e’s twinned” – Must be the first tile you play at mah-jongg (?). “Associated with abroad” as in having a twin town.
15 DO,L,DRUMS – lift and separate “wind instruments” so that “absence of wind” is the definition and DRUMS is “instruments”.
16 BORE,AS – another tile: this time, the north wind.
17 ZEPHYR – another tile: the west wind and also a kind of cloth. The setter helps us by noting it’s part of the set of winds since the definition (“garment”) is rather vague.
19 FU[rn,i]TURE – remove RN (“service”) and I (“first”) from furniture for a “tense”. Clever clue
20 EYEFUL=”Eiffel” – groan but, nonetheless, precise clue.

7 Responses to “Guardian 24061/Araucaria – Seasonal games”

  1. says:

    Very nearly between Finchley Central and Chancery Lane, Ilan, but not quite. I agree that this strained the limits of what can be done without reference. Mah-jongg itself was a very tough clue, and I didn’t get it until the first word was M_H. The four seasons were neat, and I got most of the winds, but not AUSTER (classical education deficit). I couldn’t decide between CAST (which isn’t the source of Zephyr) and WEST (There’s Timothy as well as mae, but I don’t think they’re related). And I didn’t get EYEFUL, which is a nice clue. Incidentally, in 23 across the indicator is ‘belonging to former solver’ – THY being the possessive. A satisfying solve, and I now know sligghtly more than nothing about Mah-Jongg.

  2. says:

    Timothy West and Prunella Scales are the parents of Sam West who runs a theatre in Sheffield if that’s any help…

  3. says:

    Timothy and Prunella have written preambles to Araucaria’s books of crosswords, and indeed, Araucaria compiled a special crossword for a special birthday for Ms Scales.

  4. says:

    Zephyr is in Chambers as “thin light worsted or woollen yarn: a shawl, jersey, or other GARMENT made of such”

  5. says:

    Re 12 across, the main tiles in Mah-Jongg are 3 suits comprising circles, bamboos and characters. The characters are the Chinese/Japanese ideograms for the numbers 1-9.

  6. says:

    East wind: if you play Mah Jongg with the full pomp and ceremony, you use “wind discs” representing the four winds (and different to the wind tiles) in the process of determining who starts the game. The player who draws the East wind disc starts the game.

  7. says:

    8down opening scenes=parti (part one)

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